Favorite new VST Instruments 2020

Hi All,

I know there are loads of these threads on the web but I wanted to present it from a different angle. Since a number of us use Cantabile to host VST instruments for live performance I wanted to see what new plugin that was released this year was a big improvement to your live sound. It’s not strict or anything so if more than one was notable please chime in. Curious to see what comes up.

I’ll start off with my choices, these 2 are bread and butter instruments for me in my live work …

IK Hammond B-3X - big boost to my Hammond sound, best Leslie ITB IMO of all I’ve tried

Neosoul Keys Studio 2 - Huge improvement over version one with reduced cpu, instrument layering (OMG!) and great control over the sound. It has replaced all my other Rhodes, Clavinet and Wurli EP VSTis.

Thanks in advance and Cheers! :smile:


1 Like

The three biggies for me this year have been:
Enso looper
HY sequencers
Equator 2

1 Like

Obsession by Synapse audio
Tal J-8 T(just picked up yesterday but love already)
V-reeds by Acoustic Samples (I think it came out at the start of 2020)

  • Paul

I would say B3-X too, but I thought that came out last year…

  • Paul

It is at the top…but sadly was released last fall (2019).
I would have to give it to Acoustic Samples remake of B5 in version 3.
Amplitube 5, NI Guitar Rig, and Line 6 Helix Native v 3.0 are also huge in the running, as I have forgotten anything else since the 1st lock down till around November. :fearful:
What a complete waste of 8 months!

P.S. Tal J8 too.

1 Like

True but since I didn’t get to use it till this year I included it, anyway I have to agree that B5 is a great one and I also like Obsession but haven’t used it live yet just on recordings and it just wows me FWIW…

Helix Native 3.0 has a major issue since it won’t work if you have an SD card in place. I keep all my samples on the card. Please fix it Yamaha.

I’m really happy with AmpliTube 5 - it’s a big improvement not only soundwise but also in responsiveness for whatever amps, pedals and cabinets you might already have (recent amps/cabs are upgraded). They streamlined the UI enough you don’t have to think about it. Of course they still list the amps/cabs/pedals you haven’t unlocked in the drop down equipment browser - that will probably never change. I’ve never been too bothered by that because I create snapshots in Cantabile and that replaces their browser.

The $100 SE version adds new features including more routing options and their IR implementation but doesn’t add any amps/cabs/pedals.

The $150 standard version adds new amps/cabs emulating Friedman, PRS, Diezel, Bogner, Aguilar and SansAmp.

UPDATE: I bought the standard version in a bundle that included the Axe I/O Solo USB interface for an extra $150 but I had points so it cost me $125. The Aguilar DB750 bass amp and cab plays and sounds just like the actual amp. I would have bought that on it’s own in the custom shop so that’s how I justified the standard upgrade to myself. A bonus is the cabs do sound more natural with the “VIR” feature that enables with the standard edition.

The Axe I/O Z-Tone control 1 MOhm (“sharp”) down to 2.2 kOhms (“bold”) is also as useful as I hoped.

There are many excellent free amp sims in this list:

I was happy with the freebies above and the Brainworx Fender and Mesa Boogie sims I bought years ago for $20 during a big sale

I went down the AmpliTube route for the bass amps and IK Leslie but with version 5 I’m finding the guitar amps compelling.


If it’s as good as U-NO-LX it will be a corker!

For me:

Obsession / Synapse Audio & J-8 T / TAL: really good sounding emus of great 80ies synths without lots of whistles and bells.

VReeds & VTines / Acousticsamples: even though very small memory footprints realistic and organic sounding electric pianos.

Regards Volker


If amp sims qualify, then Neural DSP’s Archetype Cory Wong, and most surprisingly after buying NI’s Guitar Rig 3,4,5 which all turned out to be duds, the new GR6 freebie. Hey at least I finally get one usable amp for all that money spent. Also OwnHammer’s Evolution IR collection (Nov 2019), which I use with real amps into a reactive load box.

1 Like

I’d talk about “Expressive e” with their “lié” host. Very interesting! Need to test it with cantabile!
and the plugin called Noisy interest me

My favorite 2020 discoveries / additions to my arsenal (independent of publication date):

  • Surge synth - free and super-powerful with a decent CPU footprint. Currently migrating all my bread-and-butter virtual analog patches to Surge. Definitely worth trying!
  • Euphoria by Mercuriall - a great Bogner amp sim, capable of giving me most of my guitar sounds, from clean through Plex to reeeally croonchy :guitar:. I have a broad arsenal of pretty much every amp sim around, but Euphoria gets me decent tones in a minimum of effort.
  • SWAM saxophones - great and super-expressive for faking a pretty credible sax solo
  • VReeds & VTines as well - my go-to electric pianos now
  • Korg Triton - a great all-round Rompler synth for bread & butter and some really iconic Korg sounds.
  • B3-X - no discussion, the most credible virtual Hammond clone (though I still keep Blue3 around for less-CPU-intensive duties)




I’ll throw in some freebies…
The “Keys of the 70’s” is good for a freebie… Their Hammond is ok, but the amp sims sounded pretty good.


HY Sequencers are great. You can really make some random stuff and then tweak it with some LFO’s.

I second the IK Hammond. It really fills in the sound nicely. IK had some specials this year, so I’m loaded with a lot of stuff from them now, including Miroslav Philarmonic.

Midishaper is a stand-alone LFO that works with any knob that has a midi learn. You can choose from various waves (sin, etc) or make your own. I made a how-to on it: https://twitter.com/HomeStudioImpr1/status/1343451174628945920

I got EW Bosendorfer this year, and it’s really the best piano VST I’ve used. Closest to the grand pianos I’ve played.

As I mentioned in other posts, the HY sequencers, HY-RPE2 and HY-Seqcollection2, are great for keyboard lines or drum tracks. With the HY-Seqcollection2, you can set up a line using the random function, and have fun tweaking various knobs in real time such as the pitch or harmonizing knob or pattern length knob. For drums this can be pretty fun, and sounds great even if though it’s monophonic. You can also chain patterns easily. HY-RPE2 is multitrack, but it does take a little more time to wrap your head around it. If you start learning with HY-Seqcollection2, it’s easier to understand HY-RPE2.

For arpeggios I sometimes use Chutlu. Many VST’s also come with their own arpeggios and arpeggiated patches.

This year I subscribed to Roland Cloud, which includes tons of synths and some drum machines from several decades of Roland history, so there really isn’t a lack of VST’s for me anymore.

The Softube line can add warmth and lo-fi things up a bit for sounds that sound too clinical/cold/factory. They released a bass VST and synth VST this year.

I’m working on using the Octatrack sequencer as the brains of it all so there’s so much to learn/explore. There’s no GAS at the moment for me… I can do a lot more by learning how to use what I have than getting new gear, and there’s a lot to learn.


I almost forgot: Valhalla Super Massive. Amazing, crazy reverb/delay, and it’s free. I know, not an instrument, but hey…

  • Paul

I wonder if/when the Hammond VSTi makers are going to get their acts together and offer tone wheel out so you can properly use it with IK’s Leslie?

LOL, B3-X, the only one that would not benefit from this feature (because it’s Leslie is the best out there), is apparently the only one that actually has this feature…

Melda has something similar in their MCCGenerator. In addition to LFO it adds the usual suspects for audio triggering of midi control: envelope follower, ADSR, pitch detection. Supports 8 mods per instance and also allows mods to be “multiparmed” to control more than one parm. It’s part of their free bundle, but be warned, you must purchase the upgrade in order to get this functionality. That said, for me the price of the upgrade for the entire bundle was worth it for this single plugin.


If you noticed on the Organ tips thread, my presets for VB3 1.4, VB3 II, Blue3, and B5 include separate presets for use with IK Leslie. So, it has already been offered.
As for the B3-X, the reason it’s internal Leslie is so good, is because it IS the IK Leslie… just saying. :wink: